Afghan group cracks down on ISKP (ISIS-K) members after a series of attacks, but experts say it won’t be an easy task.
At least 19 people were killed and 43 others were wounded in an attack on Afghanistan’s biggest military hospital in the capital Kabul, interior ministry sources told Al Jazeera.
Two explosions hit the entrance of the Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan military hospital on Tuesday, followed immediately by heavy gunfire, officials said.
The Islamic State in Khorasan Province, ISKP (ISIS-K), later claimed the bombing in a statement released on its Telegram channels, saying that “five Islamic State group fighters carried out simultaneous coordinated attacks” on the sprawling site.
It said that one group member detonated an explosive belt at the entrance of the hospital before other militants stormed the facility and opened fire.
A Taliban official earlier said a suicide bomber and gunmen were behind the attack.
“The attack was initiated by a suicide bomber on a motorcycle who blew himself up at the entrance of the hospital,” said the official on condition on anonymity, adding the assailants had all been killed.
Photographs shared by residents showed a plume of smoke after the blasts in the former diplomatic zone in the Wazir Akbar Khan area in central Kabul.
A health worker at the hospital, who managed to escape the site, said he heard a large explosion followed by a couple of minutes of gunfire. About 10 minutes later, there was a second, larger explosion, he said.
Zabihullah Mujahid, Deputy Minister of Information and Culture in the Taliban government said Taliban special forces killed five of the attackers.
A Taliban military commander in Kabul was among the fighters killed when his men responded to the attack, officials said Wednesday.
Hamdullah Mokhlis, a member of the hardline Haqqani network and an officer in the Badri Corps special forces, is the most senior figure to have been killed since the Taliban seized the capital.
“When he got the information that Sardar Daud Khan Hospital was under attack, Maulvi Hamdullah (Mokhlis), the commander of the Kabul corps, immediately rushed to the scene,” the Taliban media official said.
“We tried to stop him but he laughed. Later we found out that he was martyred in the face-to-face fight at the hospital,” he added.
Interior ministry sources told Al Jazeera on the condition of anonymity that at least 19 people were killed and 43 others were wounded, but there was no officially confirmed death toll.
The UN’s mission in Afghanistan condemned the attack and called for those responsible to be held to account.
UN condemns today’s horrific attack on hospital in #Kabul. Attacks targeting medical personnel and civilians seeking treatment are violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. Those responsible need to be held to account. pic.twitter.com/CQKa9yYQj9
— UNAMA News (@UNAMAnews) November 2, 2021
The blasts added to a growing list of attacks and killings since the Taliban completed its victory over the previous Western-backed government in August, undermining its claim to have restored security to Afghanistan after decades of war.
ISIL affiliate Islamic State in Khorasan Province, ISKP (ISIS-K), which has carried out a series of attacks on mosques and other targets since the Taliban’s seizure of Kabul in August, mounted a complex attack on the 400-bed hospital in 2017, killing more than 30 people.